Background: Establishing and designating specialized hospice palliative care units (HPCUs) has been an important part of national policy to promote hospice palliative care in Korea in the recent decade. However, few studies have sought to identify patterns and barriers for utilizing HPCU over the period of national policy implementation. We aimed to investigate factors related with utilizing HPCU for terminal cancer patients after consultation with a palliative care team (PCT). Methods: We reviewed medical records for 1,028 terminal cancer patients who were referred to the PCT of the National Cancer Center in 2010 and 2014. We compared the characteristics of the patients who decided to utilize HPCU and those who did not. We also analyzed factors influencing choices for a medical institution and reasons for not selecting an HPCU. Results: The patients' mean age was 61.0 ± 12.2, with lung cancer patients (24.3%) comprising the largest percentage of these patients. The percentage of referred patients who utilized an HPCU was 53.9% in 2014, increasing from 44.6% in 2010. Older age and awareness of terminal illness were found to be positively associated with utilization of an HPCU. The most common reason for not selecting an HPCU was "refusing hospice facility" (34.9%), followed by "near death," "poor accessibility to an HPCU," and "caregiving problems." Conclusion: Compared to 2010, HPCU utilization by terminal cancer patients increased in 2014. Improving awareness of terminal condition among patients and family members and earlier discussion of end-of-life care would be important to promote utilization of HPCU.
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